Today, Friday, marks eleven years since I met my partner TrapperSF. I am still in awe at the fact that we've made it this long; there were so many reasons for it not to have happened.
Last year you were treated to his observations on our anniversary; this year it's my turn.
Honestly, I cannot tell as I start writing how it will turn out once I'm finished and have hit "Publish," but it seems like a good idea to go for it. So follow me beneath the squiggle for an almost entirely non-political, non-ranty memoir and appreciation.
When Trapper and I had our first date, on January 18, 2002, it had been nine years and a month (plus a couple of weeks) since my previous partner had passed away. That relationship, like my two prior long-term endeavors, had lasted a bit more than six years.
The first one, my only attempt at heterosexuality, transitioned to a friendship as I worked my way out of the closet. It was a good relationship; we are still friends.
When it came to men, it often seemed that my need for love was outdone by my poor judgement. I made plenty of blunders. I went with looks and didn't consider personality. I was blind to what many of my friends today would refer to as "red flags." I had my own problems with substance abuse but I found myself trying to wed fellows who made me look like an amateur in that department. Alternatively I would pick guys with so much baggage that anyone (other than me, apparently) would steer clear of them.
That was the nature of my first same-sex, long-term relationship. We met when I was still in my 20's so maybe I was still in the decade of making the mistakes I could then learn from. Bob (I was "Big Bob," he was "Little Bob") was a very sweet guy but really, really damaged, to the point where my expectations of him acting like an adult were truly misplaced. What kept it going for so long was a combination of my infatuation with his looks (he really was adorable), some misguided sympathy (which is NOT a healthy basis for a relationship. Duh!), more than a little bit of jealousy and my own evident lack of self-worth. Over six years we seldom went more than ten days without a hysterical fight. What did we fight about? Most of the time I truly had no idea. Eventually the observations of my friends and my therapist sunk in and I was able to let him go. One thing about really tumultuous relationships is that by the time you figure out that they simply are never going to be healthy, there isn't even a chance to salvage a friendship from them. It's sad in a way; I would have wanted to be there for him towards the end of his life. He died from AIDS at the age of 34. We had only two conversations between the time he moved out of my home and the time he passed, seven years later.
I moved from Washington, DC to San Francisco. Soon after my arrival in the city that is now my home I met Mario, who I have discussed in previous diaries (usually on World AIDS Day) and will be talking about once again next month. We became friends and then close friends before we became emotionally involved, which was certainly a wise move on my part and on his. Just like Bob he had had a difficult childhood; unlike Bob he was had been an IV drug user and a problem drinker. But Mario knew what his problems were and did his best to deal with them. He made a great deal of progress while we were together and would undoubtedly have made more if he'd stayed alive long enough.
I was 41 when Mario passed away. It hit me very hard and it took quite some time to get over his death. It is an unfortunate fact of life within our culture that looks and youth are prized beyond their true worth; I am certainly not immune to that myself. So, being in my forties I operated, to some extent, under the illusion that there was no chance that someone I might actually find attractive would have any interest in me because I was, so I thought, over the hill.
At my core I am an introvert; I am pretty shy in groups. I never did well in bars before I got sober, and once I stopped drinking I found I had even less reason to go to them than I had before, while having acquired no better competence at holding a meaningful conversation over loud music. In other social settings I found myself relatively awkward, particularly when it came to approaching anyone I found attractive and I was still very prone to setting my sights on men who had not even the remotest interest in me. I got shot down quite often. The internet was something of a godsend for me. I could take more risks, be a bit bolder and not cringe so badly if I was rebuffed.
Trapper and I began corresponding online. It started with a simple compliment from me. He was less than half my age. I couldn't fathom how someone that young would be interested in someone my age. But since I wasn't actually standing next to him, I figured I might as well give it a shot and the relative anonymity gave me a buffer against rejection.
Much to my surprise he told me that did indeed think I was very good-looking and he was not at all put off by my age. After a few weeks of casual correspondence (and one false start) we agreed to meet in person. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Trapper is a good deal taller than I am; we are rather a funny-looking, Mutt and Jeff sort of couple. At the time we met, despite his height I actually outweighed him by a good twenty pounds and I was pretty fit (still am, IMHO). As he himself mentioned last year, the deal was sealed when I literally swept him off his feet and carried him down Castro Street following dinner. He was indeed a bit underweight for a couple of reasons (neither of them of any lasting significance nor due to any particularly dire circumstances so I won't bore you with the details). He was in the process of relocating away from the Bay Area but soon after decided he'd made a mistake; we kept in touch, I went to visit him. We had a great deal of fun. He decided he want to make a home, in San Francisco, with me.
It is my experience that love can take any number of forms; there is the explosive, fireworks kind of love that can be exhilarating but that often doesn't work out very well over the long haul. There is the romantic kind; there is the kind based on the sharing of some intense experiences. There is the kind that sneaks up on you when you aren't expecting it. I'm sure that the first two don't apply to us.
One of the many things I managed to learn in my life is to avoid speaking for people who can speak for themselves, so I will not speak for Trapper here. But from my part what I experienced when we met was an immediate sense of ease. I can't say that I fell in love immediately but I knew right away that I liked him. I felt as though I could be myself without any effort at all. I felt absolutely comfortable in his presence and it seemed to me that that was mutual. I enjoyed his company then and I enjoy it now. He wasn't messy as many younger gay men can be. He was not interested in partying or going out clubbing until all hours. He was and is a homebody, far more in fact than I am. I like to travel; he finds it challenging. Both of us are introverts; this might actually be a good thing.
Needless to say, neither of us looks the way he did when we first met. In his case was barely more than a boy and now is a man. He was cute when he was younger; now he's very handsome. Of course that long ago ceased to be the point. Good looks don't necessarily translate into someone being a decent human being. Sooner or later (and probably sooner than you think) you find out who someone really is. The point really is that I have found someone I can build a life with. Each of us has our own interests in ways that I would have found perplexing when I was younger. Despite our age difference I have always felt like I could treat him as my equal. Even when things have been bumpy (and they have gotten that way from time to time) it has always felt like whatever the problem was, we were both interested in finding a way to solve it. Because I have never been with another person intimately for as nearly as long as he and I have been together (and I know that, in the scheme of things, eleven years is really not all that long) and there are times when I find myself wondering how one is supposed to deal with things at Year Eleven. It all seems like uncharted territory to me but it's territory I'm very happy to explore with him. I love him as much as I am able to love anyone and I know he loves me. While my previous relationships have taught me that mutual affection is no guarantee of a long-lasting partnership it certainly is an enormous advantage. And while there are truly no guarantees, from where I sit today I hope and believe we're going to be together for a very, very long time. I love him. I really do.